In the much-anticipated opening game of the 2019 Cricket World Cup, hosts England thrashed South Africa at the Oval.
England won by 104 runs with more than 10 overs remaining. This was an emphatic statement of intent by the favourites.
At the half-way stage, it looked like an even game, and even though England were slight favourites, South Africa would have been very pleased to limit England to 311-8.
However, England’s bowling performance was dominant and they were outstanding in the field.
All the hype before the World Cup had been about Jofra Archer and whether he deserved to be in the England team, considering he had only become available for selection at such late notice.
He made an immediate impact by forcing South African opener Hashim Amla to retire hurt from a threatening and testing bouncer.
He then produced two wickets in quick succession. First he took the wicket of Aiden Markram (11 runs off 12 balls) in the eighth over. His next scalp was the captain Du Plessis, who made only 5 from 7 balls.
Opener Quentin De Kock and Van Der Dussen put together a 86-run partnership to steady the ship. However, Liam Plunkett who has become very effective as a middle-of-the-innings bowler, put a stop to the resistance.
De Kock’s wicket was then followed in quick succession by the losses of Duminy, Pretorious and Van Der Dussen.
Then what followed might prove to be one of the moments of the tournament. And it’s only Day One! Andile Phelukwayo hit Adil Rashid with a sweet shot over deep mid wicket for what looked like a certain boundary.
However, Ben Stokes, fielding at said deep mid wicket, sprinted at the speed of light and leapt into the air like a wildcat and grabbed the ball out of thin air.
The sell-out the crowd at the Oval rose to their feet in delight, and gave Stokes a standing ovation. Even minutes after the incident, the crowd rose in appreciation.
In all areas, batting, fielding and bowling, Stokes proved to be the stand out performer and was deservedly awarded the Man of The Match.
South Africa were skittled out for 207 off 39.5 overs. It was a disappointing finish for South Africa who themselves had made an impressive start after winning the toss and choosing to bowl.
It was the Chennai Super Kings talisman Imran Tahir who got the Proteas off to a fantastic start. In just the second ball of the tournament, he took with wicket of Jonny Bairstow with a beautifully-flighted leg spin delivery which was caught behind by De Kock.
England then rebuilt their innings twice with a pair of 100 partnerships. The first was by Joe Root and Jason Roy. After two South African wickets in quick succession, the second 100-run stand came from Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes. All four of the aforementioned bowlers made half-centuries.
England then looked like they would reach a total of 350 plus. But South Africa bowled incredibly intelligently. Whenever England looked like they were about to push on, South Africa took timely wickets to stifle the hosts’ progress.
This was the result of shrewd adjustments and adaptations made by the South African skipper and bowlers. The Proteas bowlers, particularly Lungi Ngidi, made effective use of the slower ball, to take wickets. Despite struggling early on, he was very impressive in his final two spells. He finished with figures of 3-66.
Ben Stokes top-scored with 89 and this was one of his most-accomplished innings for England for a long time.
South Africa will hope to rebound successfully after this drubbing, and hope that their rock Hashim Amla is not too badly hurt.
England will now be buoyed by this performance as they look to win the World Cup for the first time ever.
Images courtesy of the ICC Cricket World Cup Twitter account